In this episode, Jezzibell Gilmore (CCO at PacketFabric) explains how their customers are using NaaS and SDN to advance their operations, through rapid scaling and agile environment capabilities.
INTRO: [00.00] Welcome to the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast, where you’ll meet new tech vendors, and learn how they can help your business. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before.
Max: [00.18] Hi I’m Max Clark and I’m talking with Jezzibell Gilmore, who is the Chief Commercial Officer and Co-founder at PacketFabric. Jezzibell, thank you for joining today.
Jezzibell: [00.27] Hi Max, thank you for having me.
Max: [00.29] Can you tell me what does PacketFabric do?
Jezzibell: [00.32] PacketFabric is a network as a service provider that has bought the concept and the best practices of cloud to traditional telecom services. We empower enterprise customers with carrier-grade network service, through technological innovations and our proprietary software development: packet switching, optical technology and even business process applications. At the end, we provide a highly scalable, on-demand WAN connectivity as well as secure, reliable and highly performant network capacity to cloud service providers.
Max: [01.13] Basically, if I’m in a datacenter, or in an office I can use PacketFabric to provision circuits between my datacenters or between a public cloud provider and my facility or between another endpoint on your network, and wherever I’m located?
Jezzibell: [01.30] Absolutely.
Max: [01.31] I think I know the answer to this one, but how do you say, what problem do you solve?
Jezzibell: [01.35] Well, because we’ve created this SDN, this software driven network, we give our consumers – our clients – the ability to provision services instantaneously across our network. So, they have immediate time to market, they’re able to turn up services at the time that they need it, not at the time that the telco gives them, which could be anywhere between sixty, ninety, a hundred and twenty days. The co-founders of PacketFabric were consumers of network services ourselves, and we have such terrible experiences consuming network service – you know, trying to buy a circuit from a traditional telco, it’s a nightmare. If you don’t already know somebody in that company, you have to find a salesperson who may or may not be responsive, and when you find somebody who’s responsive, you have to wait forever just to get a quote, and then get sort of the legal process… If you want to negotiate, God knows that they come back or not, and then once you finally sign the service order, send it back in paper format, they assign you a technical project manager and then you could wait until somebody’s finally available on their side to turn up the circuit, and if the circuit turned up and it doesn’t work properly, you have to wait for them to assign you another technical project manager who may or may not help you solve their problem and have to find you an engineer who could be available thirty days from now to help you troubleshoot that circuit.
Max: [03.21] I’m having cold sweats and flashbacks here, thinking of every telco circuit we’ve ever provisioned, ever.
Jezzibell: [03.27] So… And from our perspective, cloud, you know, cloud resources in compute and storage had changed the way software development works, right? And so, why not apply the principle of cloud and the best practice of cloud to network? So, we set out to do that, and so we created PacketFabric, really we wanted to empower the users, the clients who are using cloud services and trying to connect their datacenter services to each other with a network that performs in the fashion of cloud and is instantaneous, it’s hyper-capacity and it gives the end user the total control through our portal, or if you’re more sophisticated, through our full-featured API.
Max: [04.20] I get the story from, I want to provision a circuit and it takes forever to use a telco to provision a circuit, so there’s got to be a better way, or also – I’m looking for a circuit that’s not on a thirty six month term and I’m looking for somebody who can provide me flexibility on that… Like, those two really resonate a lot. The question I come to is… How dynamic are your customers networks in actuality? I mean, if you need to establish a connection between New York and London or LA and New York or you know, LA and a VPC in some cloud region. Once you bring those networks up, I mean how often are people taking and reconfiguring that and actually manipulating that and changing it and moving the endpoint to a different region or changing it to a different office and what have you seen, you know, since PacketFabric came online, of people actually using your network and actually using this SDN to approach a programmatic network for themselves?
Jezzibell: [05.14] That is a great question. I have to say that we didn’t really know what to expect, we knew people needed services – network services – and we didn’t know if people needed short term network services, but we wanted to give the flexibility and availability of such month to month terms. And, many of our customers actually come on with month to month terms, because they’re not sure of hte quality of hte service or even their own situation: how long do I need this circuit? Is the project going to be successful? If it’s not, I will no longer need this circuit. Even sometimes the customer is undergoing datacenter consolidation projects, right; mergers and acquisitions… You’ve just acquired another company, you need to be able to provision a circuit to their datacenters so you can start bringing their data into yours, but you intend to shut it down within six months, and you don’t want to buy a two year circuit for htat, but you wanted to have the largest capacity circuit possible. Similarly for disaster recovery, for cloud service, if you’re doing — you’re turning up three hundred virtual machines in the cloud, because you really need it only for a very short amount of time, do you want a two year circuit for that two week project you’ve got going on? So, we see a lot of month to month services come in, but that’s not to say that many of them convert to longer terms – we do see customers stay for a long time, as well. It’s still hard to say exactly what that trend is, but there’s a lot of different types of use cases.
Max: [06.57] You mentioned circuit capacity and circuit type… We’re not talking about just one gig and ten gig circuits, you guys do a lot more than that as this point? It’s much faster. So, what are we actually talking about in terms of your network capacity and what a customer can provision on top of PacketFabric?
Jezzibell: [07.12] Wow, I feel like you’re throwing me a bone here! So, PacketFabric is designed to be a hyper-scale network. We have multiple terabits of capacity across the backbone, so at all locations our customers have the ability to turn up hundred gig, multiple hundred gig circuits instantaneously anytime they want. Sometimes we run out of a hundred gig optics in a location, and we overnight them – that’s capacity planning. So, we overnight hundred gig optics and that only takes a day. The underlying capacity is always available – we are constantly monitoring and making sure that we feed underlying capacity into the network, and at the actual POPs, sometimes you get into the portal you see exactly how many optics of each media type that we have… If you don’t see the one you want, and you like, you can actually request it and we’ll ship one out.
Max: [08.16] So, I got this information from your customer, so I think it’ll be okay. A few years ago, NTT – we all love NTT as a backbone provider – and one of the big issues with NTT has been a relative limited POP locations, so for instance in Southern California they’re in Los Angeles, but they’re not in Vegas, so we have a lot of large datacenter customers in Vegas, they want to use NTT and can’t. It was always by transport, by transport, by transport, and a collaboration was announced of NTT using PacketFabric to extend their service across your network to service customer transit access, and that was pretty surprising to read, but I think a pretty powerful statement here of this isn’t just you know, companies using PacketFabric to extend and talk to their resources in the cloud or to consolidate datacenters, or things along those lines, these are service providers that are delivering internet capacity or services across PacketFabric to meet their customers, where their customers might be, as well.
Jezzibell: [09.10] Yes, and that has always been our intention. PacketFabric isn’t just a network – we’re a platform. That’s what interconnection is all about: facilitating the commerce between our customers, whether that you’re a service provider for internet services, cloud services, application services, or an enterprise who is looking to consume those services, or an enterprise who is looking to create their own private backbone over PacketFabric, or even just to reach a business partner so you can collaborate. Imagine the power that one could have if you are collaborating with a business partner and you can turn up a circuit instantaneously, move petabits of data across that network, and then say, shut off the connection.
Max: [10.05] This idea of cloud connectivity is not new, I mean — so we’ve got a few years under the belt with this now, and there are more and more competitors getting into the market of offering this service. What makes PacketFabric better at solving this problem than others in the space?
Jezzibell: [10.21] Well, that’s a great question. What makes PacketFabric better? Our team. We have such an incredible team of people who come from all different disciplines. We’re not just a software development house, we’re not just a network team; we have a business team that truly cares about our customers. So, from our perspective, when you build a platform like PacketFabric, you’re not building it, you’re not building just a network, or just some software… Everything, from layer zero all the way up has to work in a cohesive fashion. So, what we’re delivering to the customer is a reliable service that they depend on to perform their critical — mission critical business. So from our perspective, if our customers are trusting us with their business, we better deliver, and deliver in the fashion that they demanded and the way that if I were a customer, what I would want to do. So, with that said, you know, we take so many different things into consideration as we built the network and the reliability and the service offering. So, it isn’t just our desire to build a network, but it’s our desire to help our customers be successful in what they do, their desire to be able to collaborate and connect to other partners that they’re working with – their desire and demand to have access to a variety of service providers, so they can pick and choose from not just on the pricing that those different service providers offer, but the different quality of service and different speciality that those services bring, you know? We have many customers that say, I need not to just one cloud service provider, I need many, because the functions of my application – part of it performs better in this cloud, and part of it performs better in that cloud, and for economic reasons, I want to put all this type of function in this private cloud that I have. So, having the ability to tie them all together in a seamless fashion is the only way to enable the customer to do what they want, and that’s what we want to do: help our customers to be successful.
Max: [12.56] You have a sginficant investor, who’s been very interested in telemedicine and remote health. I mean, not just in the sense of like you can talk to a doctor remotely but actually be doing robotic big surgery, you know, with a doctor in a remote location from the actual surgery location. So, when we talk about reliability of providing — of building a network and providing services, this isn’t about reliability to make sure that your back-up data shifts from one datacenter and your cloud provider, vice-versa, but you’re talking about reliability from a… You know, can this network survive and if there is literally a life on the other side of this link that depends on it?
Jezzibell: [13.33] You’re absolutely correct. When Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong – who is our lead investor – invested in the company, because he believes infrastructure is key to just diagnostic medicine as well as the future of telemedicine. And so, from that perspective, yes – lives are on the line, and with COVID going on today, right, you see the world demanding for more infrastructure. You’re right – it isn’t Netflix that we intend to deliver, you know, it’s those mission critical applications that really drives commerce for the world.
Max: [14.13] So, who’s an ideal customer for PacketFabric? I mean, what’s the profile look like? If I was to say on average, is this people moving out of datacenters, or people with multi-cloud, or people with multiple offices? What’s that profile look like?
Jezzibell: [14.30] Well, you know, I’d like to be able to paint a very clear picture, and… Let’s just say that anybody who has data to move from one location to another, so whether that is a financial company, a media and entertainment company, a technology company, oh my God… Health care – we work with so many. Retail, so many different types of companies, I’ll give you an example. We have this company that signed up, that I’ve never heard of, and I thought that our — I thought our sales rep had typo’d – it was supposed to be 3M… I didn’t know 3M was still a company, are they buying services from us, that’s great? And they were like, nope, it’s not them, it’s someone else, I didn’t typo that. I was like, oh, what do they do? And they’re one of the largest accounting firms in the world. They need this much capacity? It’s shocking, you know, so many people, because of digital transformation, need to have the ability to move data from one place to another and so many of our customers come on with a single type of service, it could be a point to point, it could be a cloud down ramp, it could be connecting multiple partners into one location… But, the more they use — once they get onto the platform, the more they love how agile and flexible the platform is. Then, they start using it – we see customers adding services all the time, and as a network service provider, we have a Net Promoter score of eighty-eight, which is unheard of – I believe – in our industry. I was told the telecom Net Promoter score average is like twenty-seven. So, hopefully that’s a good indicator of how happy our customers are with us.
Max: [16.34] You know, the idea of network as a platform, I mean… This isn’t really new but what we’re talking about really is new, in the sense that the customer is a control, you give a web interface, you give an API, you give a tool that says, okay, you have a physical connection that you have to, you know, bring up – so there’s a physical link, but once you have that physical link you can do whatever you want to it, and the value of the platform increases as more people connect to it – more people, more companies, more clouds, whatever it is. And also, the use cases of people also doing things you weren’t expecting. What’s the most surprising thing that a customer has used PacketFabric for that you weren’t expecting, so far?
Jezzibell: [17.11] Oh my God, so many different examples I can give, you know? The customer thinks about how they want to use our network all the time that we don’t think about. It’s public information, I will provide it for you. One of our customers uses us in a very innovative architecture to provide disaster recovery as a service to their customers. So, if you think about how normal architecture works in disaster recovery, your primary site has the connectivity to you, and then you have a back-up site and you have to source a secondary connection back into you, and they need to be interconnected to each other. And that’s a lot of extra money, especially for the back-up site that you’re keeping that circuit around and it has to be a pretty large circuit, because when you need that back-up site to be working, that better be working with a lot of capacity, getting all of that data back to your site where your people are. Well, they came up with an architecture where PacketFabric is in the middle and we tie those two sites together and the customer connects to PacketFabric. So, we provide — one thing I forgot to mention is the services PacketFabric provide, is inherently protected, because of the any-to-any architecture that underlays the platform. So, with that redundancy, all sites are protected on the PacketFabric network, and so each node has minimum to egress pass, and we always have redundant hardware stacks at each location, so the customer has the ability to have full reliability at each site. With that, you know, the customer can actually just connect ot us once, and reach their primary and their redundant site and be connected to each other, all via us.
Max: [19.13] My mind is wheeling, I’m looking for a whiteboard in my office right now because I want to scribble stuff down. The idea around single point of failure and network link redundancy, and these diagrams you get into with everything interconnecting every which way, and eliminating that complexity and that cost, is… It’s a staggering idea to actually work throughout right now, in my brain. Jezzibell, thank you so much for your time today, it’s been a pleasure. I can’t wait to talk to Ann about this in more depth, and I’m looking forward to learning more about PacketFabric.
Jezzibell: [19.41] Well, thank you Max, and Anna is phenomenal, she’s funny, she’s super smart and I hope that you guys dive into the technical aspect of how we do things. Thank you so much for having me here.
Max: [19:55] Thank you.
OUTRO: [19.58] Thanks for joining the Tech in 20 Minutes podcast. At ITBroker.com, we believe tech should make your life better, searching Google is a waste of time, and the right vendor is often one you haven’t heard of before. We can help you buy the right tech for your business, visit us at ITBroker.com to schedule an intro call.